Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe

Academic journal article Church History

Book Review: An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe

Article excerpt

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An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe . By Douglas H. Shantz . Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press , 2013. xviii + 497 pp. $70.00 cloth; $35.00 paper.

Book Reviews and Notes

Pietism, Douglas Shantz concludes, originated as a seventeenth-century urban phenomenon that owed its capacity to generate a host of activities within German Protestantism to a "new paradigm." Ranging from intensely personal "conversions" or "re-births" that followed hard (for some) on the heels of a harrowing struggle for repentance, the movement's members produced conventicles of the like-minded whose communal focus flowed from a determination to be Biblically literate, sober in behavior, and watchful for the "end times." Imminent advent helped spur hopes for internal European renewal of education, orphanages, and poor relief but spread to ambitious international missions intent on converting both Jews and non-Christians (7). Given the utopian aspirations, students will hardly wonder at the difficulty scholars have faced in defining pietism, as well as the inevitable disappointment that dogged it.

In four sections, Schantz introduces readers to the movement and how it has been treated (and ignored) especially in the Anglophone world. Explaining the urban Holy Roman Empire context that produced the first renewal cells, he provides a selective social and cultural analysis of the movement's Central European impact and how it found expression in North America, South India, and Labrador. Finally, the book assesses the movement and "modernity."

Schantz announces forthrightly: "German Pietism represents a key, but forgotten, strand of the religious DNA of North American Christianity" (1). By stitching together different definitions and analyses of the movement by the German and Dutch scholars Johannes Wallmann, Hartmut Lehmann, Fred van Lieburg, and Martin Gierl, Schantz skillfully integrates older historiography with newer research trends that include both theological and socio-cultural analyses of what "pietism" may have meant and how long it endured, if at all. No other comprehensive survey of German Pietism in English has emerged since the work of the transplanted Württemberger F. Ernest Stoeffler in the 1960s. Schantz's narrative provides the most accessible summary of the movement's many facets and his own assessment.

Schantz offers an homage to the posthumously published judgment of the late Carl Hinrichs, that with church music, "Pietism" was one of "the two great creations of German Protestantism" (Preußentum und Pietismus: Der Pietismus in Brandenburg-Preußen als religiös-soziale Reformbewegung [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, 1971], 17). The author seems to share Hinrichs's perspective, especially given the book's title about "modern" Europe. Schantz acknowledges pietism's failures and shortcomings but reaffirms the "new paradigm that was marked by the experience of renewal and new birth, conventicle gathering for mutual encouragement, successful mission to the world, and the millennial reign of Christ on earth" (279). These characteristics have remained the identifying markers of Anglophone Evangelicalism down to the present. …

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